Encouraging Words From Galatia

How do we encourage someone? In one instance, Paul and Barnabas shows us how this is done. They encouraged the Galatians “to continue in the faith. . . . appointed elders for them in every church.” (See, Book of Acts 14:22-23.) This act of appointing leaders is their way of encouraging the believers.

And yet, in just a few years, Paul writes to these new believers in Galatia and calls them “foolish Galatians.” (See Galatians 3:1.) He is frustrated with their fickle mindedness. He is surprised that they were easily persuaded by another gospel. (See Galatians 1:6-9.) So, what we see in The Letter Of Paul To The Galatians is a series of reminders to these believers. Paul explains the gospel of Jesus Christ and the role that faith has for the believers of this gospel. He concludes with the Fruit of the Spirit as evidence of those who walk by the Spirit of God. Those who are truly encouraged by the gospel will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. How do we then encourage someone?

So, encouraging words is not enough. We need to establish systems and introduce structures so that new believers continue in the faith and are not persuaded by heresy or other forms of the gospel. We move on and equip the leaders with good teaching and sound biblical theology.

In South Asia we try to leave a long lasting encouragement to our brothers and sisters there. Just like Paul and Barnabas, we appoint elders to lead the work of many local Christian communities. We nurture groups of leaders who are expressing dynamic service. We coach these leaders to establish indigenous political structures that serve their needs and function naturally with their newfound faith in Jesus. We encourage them with a theology that makes sense to the South Asian world.

We have to give credit to Paul and Barnabas though. They tried to encourage the Galatians with more than just words. They visited the churches for the second time on their way back to Jerusalem (Acts 14:21). They appointed elders over these churches and committed them to the Lord (Acts 14:23). They warned them that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (verse 22). They prayed and fasted. And when they got back to their home base in Antioch, they shared the Galatian work with their sending churches. They declared what God is doing in Asia and Galatia.

In South Asia, we want to leave long-lasting forms of encouragement to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Whenever we are there, we give them good pastoral training that is both biblical and Wesleyan. When we leave, we remind them of the prayers of the global family. Would you join us in praying for the leaders of South Asia? Let us “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Would you pray for God’s work in South Asia?

To The South Asian God: Resham Tamang

Paul’s sermon in Athens in the Book of Acts chapter 17 always fascinates me. In this speech, Paul is able to connect the Creator-God concept to the reality of the Savior-God. I saw this connecting line in one of my conversations with a South Asian gentleman, Resham. But before we go to Resham’s story, let us look at Acts 17. Now, if you do not have a lot of time to read the whole chapter, you can just read with me a few verses which I included here (below). 

(Acts 17:23-24, 31, ESV). “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . . [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him [Jesus] from the dead.”

Let me share Resham’s story. 

Resham is a Christian from South Asia NP. I met him last year in Kathmandu. He shared to me an encounter he had with Jesus. Before he became a Christian, he was a teenaged boy living in a remote village up in the Himalayan mountains. At that time, his father was working in West Asia as a migrant worker. After four years, his father came home and was telling everyone about following Jesus. Apparently, his father became a Christian when he was working in West Asia. He was the only Christian in the village. That time, if anyone became a Christian, they were persecuted for their faith. The village's authority would come and ask them to leave the village under threat of physical harm. This happened to Resham’s father and yet he kept sharing his Christian faith, even going to other villages in the mountain area. Without any sign of fear, he kept trying to convince the whole village to follow Jesus. Resham even witnessed his father invoking the name of Jesus for the healing of village people who were sick and infirm. He did not necessarily agree with his father. He could not bring himself to fully embrace this new found faith in the family. But he respected his father and tolerated this situation.

At one time, Resham’s father was not home and out of the village somewhere. One night, a group of people from another village came to Resham’s home carrying a sick person. They were expecting Resham’s father to come and heal their sick friend. They were so disappointed that no one was going to pray for their sick friend. They still needed to go back to their own place which is a few hours of walking and they did not want to bring back a sick person with them. In their desperation, they asked Resham to pray for the sick person. Resham relented and prayed. The sick person was healed and the visitors went home to their own village.

Resham was not a believer when he uttered the prayer for healing. He later shared with me that he consented to the people’s request for prayer out of pity for the sick person and nothing else. His prayer was like this: “I pray for healing for this person in the name of the God that my father believes.” He recounted to me that he has seen his father say “In Jesus Name!” many times while praying for sick people or laying hands on those who ask for prayer. He simply imitated that prayer because he did not know what else to do. He did not expect anything to happen. However, God intervened and brought healing to the sick.

Now, Resham and his family are active members of a local church in the city of Kathmandu. He also helps the local pastor with occasional preaching and with some other leadership responsibilities. Resham, on many occasions, has helped me with translation work and documentation. His story testifies of God’s intervention in spite of the people’s inadequacies and limitation. God is in control. God is the Creator and the Savior of the world.

Hopeful Conclusion

      Paul lived in Rome for two whole years. The Book of Acts concluded  its twenty-eight chapters with the statement: “. . . proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31) What a hopeful and victorious way of concluding a book.

      Let us not forget that Paul went through many trials and difficulties. He was unjustly imprisoned, publicly flogged like a common criminal, rejected by his countrymen many times, stoned, shipwrecked, and wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit. And on top of these, he was, at many times, financially challenged, so much so that he had to work his trade as a tent maker. In this way, he is able to “pay the bills” and continue his missionary work. Paul was in constant turmoil, “in toil and hardships, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure,” he endured them all (2 Corinthians 11:27).

       Despite all (or, maybe, because) of these, Dr. Luke concludes his writing of the Book of Acts with this hopeful description that the kingdom of God is freely proclaimed and Paul’s ministry in Rome is unhindered and unrestrained. What a victorious conclusion.

      Our Christian ministry (and missions work) amidst this global pandemic is not yet concluded. Many of us are continuing in the ministry of preaching, encouragement, helping, feeding, and healing. My prayer is that, at the end, after this global pandemic is concluded, we can say we preached the kingdom of God, “speaking with all boldness and freedom” (Acts 28:31, GNT).


Paul’s Timeline: A Change of Heart

      I want to share with you a person’s change of heart. I want to paint a picture of his movement from being a brash proclaimer to becoming a sensitive cross cultural missionary. This person is the great apostle Paul.

      Let me start with a verse describing Paul’s way of ministry. He goes to a place of prayer. He sits down with women and talks to them. (Acts 16:13) I think this is unusual for Paul to do. I say this because from an earlier narrative, we see Paul rebuking demons, confronting authorities, preaching fearlessly to Jewish men at a synagogue, and leaving a worker (John Mark) behind for “purist reasons.” (More on this later.) But now, we witness his new approach, that of personable visit with a woman named Lydia. What Paul is doing here is a shift of perspective, a change of strategy, or perhaps a gentler way of doing missionary work. Let me explain by going back a few chapters earlier.

      In Acts chapter 13, we see Paul enjoying some measure of success in Cyprus and Pisidian Antioch. In Cyprus, he publicly confronted a local magician and experienced a miraculous work. In Antioch (Pisidia), he preached a fiery sermon leading many people to believe. These are confrontational ways of doing ministry. He had relative success, but still an aggressive approach to winning people to the faith.

      In Acts chapter 14, Paul and Barnabas entered a synagogue in Iconium, and after a time of ministry, they were threatened with stoning. They had to flee the place. When they came to Lystra, Paul, in a loud voice, uttered healing to a person in front of everyone, which resulted in a public uproar. Many of the locals thought Paul and Barnabas were gods, divine beings pretending to be humans. This resulted, eventually, with the crowd stoning Paul and Barnabas. They miraculously survived the persecution and went on their way to other places with much greater results.

      It is fair to say that Paul’s earlier method of missionary work was aggressive and confrontational. After the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter 15, we see Paul with a change of heart. What I am trying to say here is that Paul’s timeline was a movement from an inexperienced missionary to being a wise and careful one. Before he was combative and rash. Later in Acts chapter 16, we see him as gentle and considerate of the opinion of the general public. He even had a companion go through circumcision, just to appease some Jewish opinions. (See, Acts 16:3) We clearly see Paul’s mellow approach to ministry when he chose to visit a place of prayer “by the riverside” and not the usual synagogue. He decided to meet up with the women rather than with the leading men of the area. Change of plans? Looks like it. Doing the ministry in a gentler way? Definitely!

      Paul’s timeline here is that he is becoming a more mature worker. He is listening to people, the prayerful women in the area, and avoids outright confrontation. It did not mean that because he was becoming gentler, he was able to stop the violent resistance to the preaching of the word. In fact, Acts chapter 16 mentions the casting out of a demon possessed slave girl, the violence that ensued, and the incarceration of Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail. There was still an adverse reaction to the preaching of the gospel, but this time it was not a direct result of Paul and his company’s work of ministry. (See, Acts 16:19 and 17:5) In Thessalonica, they encountered another violent reaction to their preaching. At this point, Paul allowed the local believers to whisk him away to safer locations, away from the violence. (See, Acts 17:10) A change of heart? Looks like it. Doing ministry in a gentler, non-confrontational way? Definitely!

      Let me suggest at this point that Paul’s change of heart is a conversion to a cross cultural way of doing ministry. This is usually a gentler approach and avoiding unnecessary confrontation. Most of the time this approach results in nonviolent ways, but almost always leads to a dialogue and a healthy exchange of mutual understanding and respect. I am suggesting here that Paul’s conversion or change of perspective is a cross cultural ministry conversion. We see this shift clearly when Paul visits Athens and meets up with the Greek philosophers. His speech in the midst of the Areopagus is full of common themes that Greeks can relate to. He is becoming more sensitive to the people’s ways and enters their world with an astute admiration for their beliefs. Do you remember Paul’s reference to the “unknown god” in his speech? (See, Acts 17:22-31). Movement to maturity? Looks like it. A cross cultural way of doing ministry? Definitely!

      One more thing. People who are converted to cross cultural ministry are very forgiving. They are able to accept the faults of others and are open to second chances. They are also quick to admit their own short comings. Look at Paul. At first, he did not want John Mark to be included in the work. (Acts 15:37-38) Later, however, he changed his mind. He stopped his “purist reasons” and opened his heart to a fellow worker with a storied past. (See, Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11) Paul recommended John Mark to the ministry.

      Do you see Paul’s shift of perspective from this cursory study of Acts chapters 13-16? The Lukan narrative of Paul’s visit with Lydia was the turning point of Paul’s change of heart. From Acts 16:13 and onwards, we see Paul practicing a gentler way of doing missionary work. From this point on, we could now consider Paul as a seasoned cross cultural missionary.

      Do you know anyone who has been converted to cross cultural ministry? Is his or her timeline similar to Paul’s timeline? How can we help someone experience a change of heart just like Paul did? What are the ways of becoming a mature and sensitive cross cultural ministry worker?

Different Strokes For Asia

Different Strokes For (Maybe) Different Folks

In the Book of Acts, Peter gives two different sermons for two different groups of listeners. The first one was the Sermon at Pentecost and the second one was the Sermon at Solomon’s Porch.  Both sermons highlights the resurrection of Jesus and the eyewitness accounts of the apostles and disciples of Jesus. (See Acts 2:32 and 3:15) Also, both sermons resulted in thousands coming to salvation in Christ.

Allow me to give you in broad strokes some differences that is obvious in Acts chapters 2-4. Sermon one was a response to the speaking of tongues phenomenon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). Sermon two happened after the healing of a lame beggar and when the people gathered in astonishment to this miraculous healing (Acts 3:11-26). Sermon one was given to “devout men and women from every nation” (2:5). These were Jews from many places, proselytes, and God-fearing gentiles from other countries who came for the temple celebrations. Sermon two was preached to curious onlookers at the Temple. They maybe the same group of people as at the first sermon. But the writer describes these onlookers as coming together to watch a formerly crippled person who is now walking with Peter and John (3:11). Later, the group was extended to include the priests, Sadducees, and other temple personnel (4:1-12).

In the content of the sermon, I already mentioned the similarity in the narration of the resurrection of Jesus. The differences in the content are expressed in the citations of the Old Testament prophecy. Sermon one uses the prophet Joel and the prophet David arguing for the coming of the Holy Spirit on all people (2:17 and 2:33).  Sermon two refers to “God’s covenant with our fathers” and the promises of God to Moses (3:13 and 3:22). It also cites God’s covenant with Abraham to be a blessing for all nations (3:25, and also in Genesis 12:1-4).

In both sermons, Peter strongly leads his listeners to respond in repentance (2:38 and 3:19). Many came to salvation in Jesus; 3,000 from the first sermon and 5,000 from the second (2:41 and 4:4). Both sermons were a precursor to more sermons, great fellowship, and a sharing of properties or everyone having “all things in common” (2:44 and 4:32). Both sermons opened the doors to persecution, imprisonments, and resistance from religious authorities. Overall, miracles and healing were happening in their midst and God’s Spirit was present at every instance. “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (4:33).

Do you think these events in the Book of Acts could happen in South Asia? Please pray that we will be ready and be filled with God’s Spirit.

All Of Them Heard The Word

It would be nice to say "All of them heard me." I mean "all" as in everyone present in that location. But sometimes what we mean by "all" is really "most of them" or "a significant number." There is a verse in the Book of Acts that has all scholars (okay, maybe most scholars) of the New Testament baffled. It describes the state of the missionary work under the leadership of Paul. It pertains to the qualifier word "all." Did Dr. Luke the writer really mean "all" or just a majority of the people? If it is really true, could it happen within the time frame specified by the writer? Was there really a lot of people living in that area?

Acts 19:10 says: "And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." (NASB)

What took place before this verse was Paul's change of strategy of preaching the Word of God. He moved from the Jewish synagogue to the Greek meeting place called "the school of Tyrannus" (see Acts 19:9). The narration says he met a stiff resistance from the people at the synagogue. They became hardened and spoke evil of Paul. So, Paul tried a new approach and the result was that all of them heard the Word of God.

Did Dr. Luke the writer really mean all the people in that area heard the gospel? I do not want to go into the technical discussion of this verse. Many scholars have explained this word "all" in the context of the demographics of the day and the social life of the early people living in Asia Minor. What I want to talk about is the circumstances before this verse happened. What brought about this increase of people hearing the Word of God? The word "all" may have some technical explanation, but it is obvious that a measure of growth is happening here. The verse reports of a significant new thing happening, that more and more people are responding to the preaching of Paul. What prompted this growth? What changes did Paul introduce to his missionary work? What events ushered in this phenomenon of positive response?

I suggest three things. These three made it possible for Paul and company to bring the Christian gospel to the level of the people in their area, in Asia Minor. One is that the issue of the preaching location. Paul moved away from the strategy of starting in the Jewish synagogues. Instead, he "took away his disciples" and started a new method of preaching in places where Greeks frequented (verse 9). He took them to the school of Tyrannus, a place where the local gentiles went for a time of discussion, philosophical talk, and social exchange. The challenge for us here is that we need to bring the gospel to the places where the locals meet for a time of spiritual dialogue and social interaction. Does this mean we should stop talking about the Bible in our churches and start talking about God's love at the local bar or the people's living rooms? I do not know. But one thing is for sure. Favorable results happened when Paul changed his strategy.

Two is the issue of the frequency of preaching. The text says that Paul "reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus" and he did this for two years. This gives us a picture of consistency and Paul's availability. He was always present for the local people during these two whole years. Does this mean we should have services everyday and not just during Sundays and Wednesdays? Maybe. What is obvious here is that the preacher or the person bringing the Good News should be available for the people on a daily basis. If the non-believer knows that the bearer of the gospel is available everyday and any day, then it is most likely that that person will be willing to open up his or her life to the message of the gospel and listen to the Word of God.

Last is the issue of the work of the Holy Spirit. In verses 1-7, Dr. Luke the writer gives us a simple story of the Spirit's coming to a group of people. He narrates this event right before this report we are discussing (verses 8-10). The clear conclusion we can give here is that growth and positive results come because of the work of the Holy Spirit. What is so unique about Acts 19:1-7? Don't we see the Spirit already working even from the very first chapter of the Book of Acts? Isn't Paul's missionary work full of the Spirit's outworking and abundant in miracles? Yes and yes. The difference in Acts 19 is that Paul gives a primary emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Look at the text again. He starts off his conversation with the Ephesian disciples with the question: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2) Whereas, before, the emphasis was not there. Does this mean we should start all our conversation with this question above? Perhaps. We could try. The point here is that when we worship the Holy Spirit and give Him the central focus in our evangelism and missions work, then results will come and all people in our localities will hear the Word of God.

It would be nice to read a report that says "All the people of Taiwan heard the Word of God" or a similar report of another locality. But, this won't happen unless we give honor to the Holy Spirit, bring the gospel to the level of the local people, and make sure they know we are available everyday and any day. 

Paul Is Waiting

"Paul was waiting." (Acts 17:16). Wait a minute! Paul the missionary is waiting? Paul, the one who fearlessly goes to many dangerous places and, without any hesitation, preaches to anyone who would listen is waiting? It is hard for me to comprehend the impulsive Paul, the pioneer missionary who has no qualm standing before kings and rulers, to have the time to sit down and wait. What would he do when he is waiting? 

It is not that Paul the missionary never had experienced a time of waiting. Before this time, Paul was locked up in a Macedonian prison. While waiting inside the jail, they sang hymns and songs. (Really, what else could you do inside a prison?) And so, what happened next resulted in the conversion of the jailer together with his family (Acts 16:22-40). In another occasion, Paul, with Silas, were waiting for the appointment for missionary work from the Church Council in Antioch. I suppose they were also singing hymns and spiritual songs while waiting for this formal endorsement (Acts 13:1-3). But I think, knowing Paul, he most probably was going around the city of Antioch talking to the many Christians in the area recruiting them to the work of cross cultural ministry. (Compare Acts 20:4.)

And because of this time of waiting in Athens, it resulted into an encounter with Greek philosophers and religious gentiles. Experts say this is Paul's first meeting with non-Jews who have no background or who are unfamiliar with the Torah or any of the teachings of the Jewish religion. And thus, we see Paul's "Sermon on Mars Hill," the famous preaching where Paul connected with his non Jewish listeners through his use of the "Unknown God." He truly crossed cultural boundaries and overcame philosophical obstacles by appealing to the people's gentile knowledge of the Creator God. He uses a gentile poet to affirm his statement: "For we also are His offspring" (Acts 17:28 NASB). As a result of this preaching, we see more and more Greek, Roman, and other gentile followers committing to the venture of missionary work in Asia (Acts 17:16-34). These are gentile Christian workers who speak the language of the non-Jewish population. And I would say, these are cross cultural missionaries who are better equipped, better than Paul, Silas, and Barnabas, in terms of relating the Christian gospel to the people in the area who have no history and experience with the Jewish culture and religion.

So, many beautiful things came about because of Paul's waiting. He was not waiting quietly, sitting down and doing nothing. He was, actually, waiting for Silas and Timothy to come from Macedonia. What did Paul do while he was waiting? First, he was looking around (Acts 17:16). This is just the typical Paul. You could never keep him still in one corner. He just had to go out and do something. Second, he had an emotional reaction (verse 16). He opened his heart. He was disturbed. So, being the Paul whom we all know, impulsive, go-getter, impatient, rash, etc., he sought an audience with the Jewish group in one of the local synagogues, and later, he ended up in an Areopagus, a Greek (and Roman) meeting place for scholars, thinkers, seekers, teachers of philosophy. You all know the story, right? (See Acts 17:16-34.) Many more believers from the gentile crowd joined Paul.

So, what did Paul do while he was waiting? He looked around and God did the rest. Are you waiting? Are you waiting for someone? Look around and soak in everything you see. And let God write His own story for you.

Did Paul Asked For Money?

Yes he did. In the Book of Acts, we do not see a categorical reading that Paul asked his supporters for money to sustain his missionary work. We see in chapter eleven that the disciples raised money to help their brothers in Jerusalem during a time of famine (Acts 11:30). In another part, we see Paul receiving support from the Macedonian churches during his missionary work in Corinth (Acts 18:5 and 2 Corinthians 11:9). In chapter 13, we understand that Paul and Barnabbas were sent off to missionary work by the Church of Antioch (Acts 13:3). We can only assume that being sent off also means being financially supported by brothers and sisters from Antioch.

But did Paul asked for money? Did he go around telling people that his funds are low and he needs more financial support in order for him to continue in his missionary work? 

In other parts of the Bible, we see that Paul asked for money to help other people. He implored the Christians in Macedonia to share in their earthly blessings and give money for the poor in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26). He encouraged the Corinthian brethren to give to the harvest, especially to the workers in the harvest field (2 Corinthians 9:10). He admonishes the rich to be generous for the Lord's work (1 Timothy 6:17-19). However, we do not see a specific description that Paul asked people for money for his missionary support. We can only infer this.

I think, the idea of being sent by the Church in Antioch also means the concept of fund-raising. We do not see Paul going around raising his own support. We can assume, however, that Paul was being supported financially by this church. Whether he went around himself or someone else was doing this for him, we cannot be certain. One thing for sure is that the churches that Paul worked with were generous in their giving and supportive of missionary work. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5) This is probably one of the secrets of Paul's success in missionary work.

Go Means Going

In the Book of Acts, “go” takes in many different forms. When Jesus gave his Great Commission to his disciples, he told them to be witnesses for him and to go even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:7-8). In the life of Peter, this mandate meant a life of proclaiming an announcement. In his first sermon at Pentecost, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, he gave the people an announcement and explained to everyone what was meant by the promise of the Holy Spirit (2:14 and 2:32-33). He exhorted them (2:40). When confronted by the lame man, Peter uttered a declaration: “I have nothing except Jesus” (3:6). At Solomon’s Portico, he refers to the prophets and announced the old Abrahamic (or Mosaic) saying: “You shall be a blessing to the whole earth” (3:25, cf. Genesis 12:1-3). In Peter’s life, going meant a life of words, announcements, proclamations, and speaking to people about God’s words.

In the life of Philip, the Great Commission mandate means a life of moving from one place to another. God’s call primarily meant a direction, a life of “going south,” to places where people are different than what Philip is used to (Acts 8:26). On his way to following God’s command to go, he met Samaritans, a people whom the Israelites disliked, a weird power-hungry Simon, and a queer Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:4-40). At the end of the Philip narrative, the story continues with him still going to many different locations (8:40). In Philip’s life, going meant physically moving (or being relocated by God’s Spirit) from place to place.

In the life of Paul, the Great Commission meant a life of focus for a certain people: the Gentiles. God calls Paul to a life of work among the Gentile peoples (Acts 13:47; 22:21; and 26:17). In the beginning, he started work among the Jews scattered among the non-Jewish nations. But towards his second missionary journey, he shifted to a work directed solely for the Gentiles (18:6). He had his heart set for Rome and the far-away Spain, not because they are exotic places, but mainly because, at that time, they were populated by gentiles (Romans 15:22-24 and Acts 19:21). In Paul’s life, going meant a commitment to be where Gentiles are and to live a life that Gentiles can relate to.

Whichever form going takes, whether it involves an announcement of a blessing, a movement from one place to another, or a focus on a particular people and culture, it still portrays a life of witness to God’s salvation in Jesus.  Whether going meant tangible words, physical movement, or deep commitments and focused attention, it still involves a living encounter with our Almighty God. Both the missioner and the listener must respond in obedience. Going means a life of submission to the Lord of the universe and Lord of this earth.

The First Missionaries to the Non-Jews

The first missionaries to the non-Jewish people were not apostles, teachers of theology, or learned people. They were ordinary persons, most probably simple business people. The Bible records "men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus" (Acts 11:20, NASB). This is the first time we see in the Bible that missionary work is happening amongst Greeks who have never heard the gospel before or have never been exposed to the Jewish religion.

Earlier, we see Peter preaching to Cornelius and his household, a group of devout Italians and God-fearers (Acts 10:1-2). We also see Philip preaching to an Ethiopian Eunuch who just came back from worship in Jerusalem (Acts 8:27-28). During this time, most missionary work is with Jewish people scattered in the Mediterranean world. A few are with Samaritans and gentiles who fear God, such as with Cornelius and this Eunuch. Nonetheless missions work among the Jews and the devout gentiles have something in common; they are all familiar with the Jewish law. In a manner of speaking, there is really no crossing of culture. Cornelius, the Eunuch, and other non-Jewish God-fearers are expected to stay within the parameters of the Jewish religion. Preaching is "simply" persuading the listeners that Jesus is the Christ as prophesied in the Old Testament. Cross cultural missions have really not yet happened at this point.

It is only in Antioch that we see a group of believers from Cyprus and Cyrene who traveled to Antioch and preached the gospel to the Greeks in the city (Acts 11:20). This is the first instance of a truly cross cultural missionary work.  Some scholars have even made the observation that this is the first time the preaching of the gospel did not mention Jesus Christ, but simply "Lord Jesus" (Tennent 2010:328). God blesses their efforts to be relevant to the Greek listeners. It even comes to the point that the leaders of the Jerusalem church had to send a team to investigate the growth of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:20-23). All because of the missionary efforts of ordinary men from Cyprus and Cyrene. God bless ordinary people who have the heart for cross cultural missions work.